Building School Gardens

Since the launch of Building School Gardens (BSG) in 2007, Openlands supports 58 Chicago Public Schools on their campus. Through this program, approximately 33,000 students are directly impacted by the school gardens each day in addition to the hundreds of teachers, parents, and community members.

BSG boasts a 93% success rate two years after garden installation, far higher than the national average of 40%. A key component that directly enhances the program’s success and sustainability is the robust support that Openlands provides to each school through our workshops.

Currently, Openlands has paused constructing new school gardens and is using this opportunity to strengthen the support that we provide to the existing school gardens. If you are interested in starting a school garden, we encourage your Garden Team to use the manual below as a resource to help guide you in developing a successful school garden.

Download the Building School Gardens Program Manual

School Garden Support Grant Opportunity

Openlands is offering schools in our network, the opportunity to apply for a grant to support their existing school garden. We want to assist schools keeping their gardens activated to be living laboratories for students, and a space for the school to connect with their surrounding community. Schools that are chosen will receive in-person support and supplies of their choosing, worth up to $1000. Schools that are chosen to receive the Openlands Garden Support Grant will receive the following:

  • Openlands will purchase and drop off up to $1000 of supplies to support the school garden, which can be used for:
    • Plants
    • Seeds
    • Tools 
    • Soil and soil amendments
    • Replacing old benches 
    • Replacing beds
    • Supplies for an art project in the garden
  • Support with Garden Team check-ins
  • Support with garnering community support of the garden, by asset mapping and connecting with community organizations
  • If it’s determined to be safe, Openlands will help to facilitate up to 4 garden sessions with students, parents, and/or community members between June 1, 2021-November 6, 2021.
  • A scholarship for someone from your team to attend the Openlands TreeKeepers Course.


Your school must be one of the schools that Openlands has supported through the Building School Gardens program or Space to Grow. You can view the list of schools in our network here.

Application Process:

  1. Fill out our grant form application by April 30, 2021.
  2. We will notify you of your status on May 31.
  3. If you are selected, Openlands will purchase your requested supplies and coordinate delivery to your school this spring.

Photo: Tony Armour and Lisa Miller

Peoples Gas

Peoples Gas is the Principal Sponsor of Building School Gardens.

Funding for garden development provided by the City of Chicago. Additional funding provided the Winnetka Garden Club.

For more information, please contact